Our world and the manner in which we work has experienced a dramatic shift in trajectory since the onset of the pandemic. Prior to COVID-19 spreading across the globe, businesses had gradually begun to make changes to their operational model in order to maximize the potential of new technology. 

These changes towards a digital approach have greatly accelerated since the global health crisis has infiltrated societies globally. COVID-19 has forced businesses to accelerate trends that were being slowly implemented previously. Businesses have now placed more emphasis on remote working, greater use of e-commerce and online transactions, and a have a bigger reliance on automation at the workplace, amongst others.

Remote Working

With our world experiencing such uncertain times, many businesses have embraced remote working in order to keep their operations sustainable and this working arrangement is likely to outlive the current pandemic. Whilst having physical offices can be beneficial and collaborative, businesses have realised that a remote workforce can be just as productive, if not more, when working out of the confines of traditional office space.

In terms of a recent report from the International Labour Organization (https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_dialogue/—act_emp/documents/publication/wcms_745024.pdf), 68% of the world’s total workforce live in countries where workplace closures are enforced. This, in essence, suggests that more businesses across the globe have shifted to remote working arrangements in order to maintain operations and remain sustainable. 

It has also been observed that remote working arrangements contribute to greater happiness of employees, and this in turn boost productivity. This can be attributed to less commuting, shorter breaks, and a reduced number of business trips to mention a few. Moreover, employees are less likely to be absent due to illness as they still have the ability to fulfil their duties from the comfort of their homes. Many small businesses that are forced to operate remotely have also turned to online personal assistants (https://avirtual.co.uk/virtual-assistants/) in order to simplify business administration, personal tasks, and maintain their operational model.

Whilst the initial hurdles of remote working such as implementing a structural model with clear guidelines and securing the necessary infrastructure for remote work have proved to be challenging, businesses now appear to be fully invested in this new way of working.  Remote working certainly appears set to stay for the foreseeable future as businesses embrace a new operational model that offers greater flexibility and increased productivity.

E-commerce

The e-commerce industry has enjoyed exponential growth since the pandemic, most especially with businesses that focus on essential services like medication, household essentials, health and wellness, and groceries. With most countries in the world enforcing lockdowns and social distancing measures, the majority of consumers have shifted towards online shopping as a safe and convenient alternative.

With increasing consumer demand in the e-commerce sector, businesses have a growing need for qualified talent with specialised skill sets to maintain efficient operations. Employees with focused skills are in high demand within the e-commerce environment and this will likely be the case going forward as the e-commerce sector continues with a strong growth trajectory. 

The buying habits of consumers have changed as more people opt for a contactless shopping experience, and this is unlikely to shift back to the traditional once everything gets back to normal. Buyers have become accustomed to the convenience of online shopping and will be reluctant to return to brick and mortar locations once restrictions have been eased. It clearly appears that if businesses don’t have an active e-commerce system available, they stand to lose significant revenue streams in the future as more consumers become digitally oriented.

Decentralisation & Blockchain

Blockchain technology is a structure that records transactions on a digital ledger where they cannot be altered. These records are kept in several databases in a sophisticated network that is connected by peer-to-peer nodes and is easily verifiable by the public. Blockchain technology is decentralised by nature and has opened a plethora of new opportunities for businesses. 

This innovation paves the way for businesses to conduct their operations on a totally different trajectory and reduces the need for third-party providers to facilitate transactions securely and efficiently. Blockchain technology offers easier traceability, greater security, enhanced transparency, and incredible efficiency.

Businesses who embrace blockchain technology no longer have to rely on third-party providers to facilitate transactions. Instead, they make use of smart contracts on the blockchain which are self-executing contracts written in code. These smart contracts includes the terms of all parties and ensure that all parties are compliant with that specific agreement. 

This ensures that transactions can be surely and efficiently facilitated without having to pay third-party providers for overseeing the transaction. Moreover, its compatibility with cryptocurrencies makes it a more cost-effective payment platform as opposed to using a traditional financial institution to facilitate payments with fiat currencies. 

It is clear that blockchain technology will soon adopt many daily processes that businesses typically undertake. It certainly appears to be an attractive option for businesses who are eager to conduct operations with enhanced security, transparency, efficiency, and reduced costs. In light of this, businesses around the world are integrating blockchain technology with their operation models to keep up with the competition in a post-COVID world.

Artificial Intelligence

Prior to the Coronavirus spreading like wildfire globally, many businesses around the globe were slow to implement Artificial Intelligence (AI) measures in their operational model. A 2019 study (https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/artificial-intelligence/global-ai-survey-ai-proves-its-worth-but-few-scale-impact) by McKinsey & Company discovered that only 58% of businesses had implemented some form of AI in their business operations as they didn’t fully understand how it could play a meaningful role. 

Since the landscape of business operations has shifted dramatically in the past year, businesses have rapidly stepped up their plans to incorporate AI in their processes. Large gaps in their digital transformation efforts have left many business exposed during the pandemic as human capital and existing resources were unable to meet increasing consumer demands.

Businesses now appear to have realised the value of AI in optimising business operations, driving innovation, and boosting their profits over the long term through automated processes. With this digital transformation progressing swiftly, businesses have discovered that automating routine tasks helps them to efficiently meet consumer demands. It is clearly evident that businesses that invest in AI tools are able to improve their profit margins by doing more with less. AI and automated processes are certain to contribute to the long-term sustainability of businesses who look to discover new avenues of value and growth in a post-pandemic world.

Final Thoughts

While businesses around the world may face different challenges, they can be no doubt that the future of work across all industries will become more flexible, virtual and compliant with rapidly evolving technologies. Staff may need to be reskilled to adapt to necessary changes and employers may need to redevelop their operational models in order to remain sustainable. By shifting the perception of work, businesses can redefine possibilities to ensure a brighter future!

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